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Education: Change to 7-period schedule wins early approval

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

The school year is just over a week old, but the seven-period day schedule at Waccamaw High is receiving mostly positive reviews so far.

The schedule was implemented to provide more continuity for students, who will be in each class for the full year instead of changing courses at midyear as they did under the previous block schedule. It reduces the amount of time they spend in each class to 53 minutes from 90 minutes. Though it is still early and adjustments are still being made, a majority of faculty and students believe the seven-period day is having its desired effects.

“I like it a lot better,” said Nick Davis, a senior. “The time you’re in class goes by quicker and it seems like you get more out of it. It was hard to pay attention all the time for 90 minutes.”

“It’s definitely more positive for the students,” said Kathy Williams, a math teacher. “On the block schedule, a student could go a full year between math or other academic subject courses. They were forgetting everything they learned in the previous course. It was hard on them and their teachers. Having classes all year should help with that.”

Social studies was a particular area of concern for administrators at Waccamaw High and the Georgetown County School District. With its expansive subject matter, teachers had a difficult time covering the required material in an 18-week semester. Test scores reflected those difficulties.

Waccamaw High students posted an average score of 74 on the end of course exam for U.S. history and the Constitution last year. Though that score topped the state average, it was down slightly from 2009. Also, last year’s failure rate of 34.1 percent was up from 32.8 percent in 2009.

Georgetown County’s average score for U.S. history and the Constitution was 69.5. That was the lowest score among the four subjects tested (Algebra 1, English 1 and Physical Science were the others) and its failure rate of 54 percent was the highest.

“They usually give the end of course a couple of weeks before the end of the semester,” Dennis Lee, a social studies teacher, said. “That left you 16 weeks to try and cover an entire year’s worth of material. It was tough. Now, we’ll have more time. As a result, test scores should improve.”

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Though teachers are glad to have the expanded time frame, there are daily demands, particularly on science teachers. The 90-minute block schedule provided ample time for labs.

“We’ve done one lab and we kind of had to rush through it,” Sharon Bray, a science teacher, said. “I’m not sure there was enough time to do it justice. But I understand why the change was made. It’s a little more difficult right now, but we’ll adjust and work our way through it.”

In addition to the time allotted for science labs, other issues are the increase in the number of classes being taught by each teacher and taken by students.

“I have a lot more students than I did with the block schedule,” Bray said. “I like to return my tests and quizzes the next day and get lab reports back in as timely manner as possible. That’s harder to do when you are teaching six classes per day.”

“Things are a lot different than they were last year,” said Olivia Gay, a senior. “I feel like I’m back in middle school with all the homework.”

Principal David Hammel understands the adjustments being made, but is confident the seven-period day will wind up being a benefit for all involved.

“The administrative team has already been in more than 20 classes and we like what we are seeing,” Hammel said. “We’ve seen bell-to-bell continuous instruction and more student engagement. It’s a work in progress, but we feel positive about the direction we are going in.”

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